Sunday, 22 June 2008

NHL Entry Draft Non-Coverage

I'll admit that this draft was fairly decent in terms of the amount of activity that happened, and it appears that everyone is full of optimism over their new recruits. It's a good feeling to know that your team has a bright outlook, and that's what the NHL Entry Draft brings. However, there were some excellent trades made by a few teams, so we'll look at the winners and also-rans in this year's NHL Entry Draft.

Before we get to my opinions, here is the complete list of players selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Try to ignore Pierre McGuire's comments. You'd be better off hitting yourself in the face with a shovel. Rounds two through seven can be found here.

In terms of winners at this year's draft, the team that stands out the most to me would have to be the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes came into the draft with some optimism, drafting at the #8 spot, but really made a splash by acquiring Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defencemen Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard, and the 49th overall pick.

Jokinen will solidify the Coyotes down the middle of the ice by giving them a scoring threat every single time he's on the ice. He's a veteran presence, and will help both Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller by providing some leadership. At 29 years of age, Jokinen could be a fixture in the desert for some time.

The Coyotes also traded the 90th pick overall to get Alex Bourret from the New York Rangers. Bourret looks to be a decent power forward-type player. He's a strong skater who works hard for every inch of ice, and that will be something that pleases head coach Wayne Gretzky. While he struggled with injuries this past season, Bourret looks to be a decent prospect for the Coyotes as well.

The Coyotes used the #8 pick to draft Mikkel Boedker from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. Boedker has incredible speed and great vision on the ice. He was taught by former head coach Peter DeBoer to go to the net and score ugly goals, and that's something that can translate into a long, successful NHL career. His creativity is off the charts when he has the puck, and could be an excellent compliment to centerman Kyle Turris as Turris is a legitimate goal-scoring threat.

The Coyotes didn't shy away from some hockey pedigrees at the draft this year. The 'Yotes selected Viktor Tikhonov with the 28th pick in the first round. Viktor is the grandson of the legendary soviet coach, Viktor Tikhonov, and his skill set makes him an attractive pick. However, being a little older, he'll have to prove himself quickly in the Coyotes' system. With the 49th pick, they selected winger Jared Staal from the OHL's Sudbury Wolves. Staal is the youngest of the four Staal children to play in the NHL, following Eric, Jordan, and Marc. The Coyotes also selected forward Brett Hextall with the 159th pick. Brett is the son of former Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall.

All in all, with the additions of Jokinen and Boedker, the Coyotes will be a better offensive team this season. Losing Ballard and Boynton will hurt them defensively a little, but the Coyotes have some money to play with during the free agency period, and should be able to replace both men.

I like what Phoenix did this weekend, and expect them to push for a playoff spot next season.

The next team that did very well was the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings made an early splash in the draft by sending Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames, and then flip-flopping picks with the Anaheim Ducks to move up to the #12 spot, as well as having the #2 overall pick. The trade sends a very disenchanted Cammalleri to a new environment, and allows Los Angeles to look at free agents with a pile of money to spend. The Kings then swapped spots with Buffalo to select at #13 instead of #12. On Day Two, the Kings picked up centerman Brad Richardson from the Colorado Avalanche, and will be a good, gritty third-line centerman who can put the puck in the net.

With the #2 pick, the Kings selected Drew Doughty from the OHL's Guelph Storm. Now, I was never big on Doughty's defensive abilities, but he does bring an impressive amount of offensive talent to the table. Also, shedding an amazing 24 pounds before the combine shows that he is committed to making the Kings' roster next year, and that has to be commended. In losing some of that weight, he will need to be paired with a body-moving defenceman, but he will also get stronger which will help the Kings.

With the #13 pick, the Kings selected Colten Teubert of the WHL's Regina Pats. I had complained for a long time about how the Kings needed to get a guy like Luke Schenn who can bring some accountability to the defensive zone. By drafting Teubert, they got exactly what they needed. Teubert is a physical force on the back end, and plays a lot meaner than what Schenn does. He will not back down from anyone, and, if paired with Hickey or Doughty, could be the Adam Foote-type player that the Kings have coveted for so long, only far nastier.

With the 153rd pick, the Kings drafted CHL Player of the Year and the OHL's Most Outstanding Player in Justin Azevedo. While he's a little on the small side at 5'7" tall, he showed an amazing ability to put the puck in the net last year with the Kitchener Rangers. His 43 goals and 81 assists were the CHL's highest point total last season, and his scoring ability will definitely be needed in both Los Angeles and Manchester.

I really like what Los Angeles has done, and, to me, is all because of Teubert. They have Jack Johnson in Los Angeles already, and Thomas Hickey is learning the pro game. By getting Doughty and Teubert, the Kings have built an impressive defensive core that will, one day, play in front of goaltender Jonathan Bernier. While the fans in Los Angeles may not appreciate the team staying its course, the Kings appear to be two to three seasons from taking over the Pacific Division at this point.

On the other side of the coin, there was a definite loser on Draft Day.

The team who really disappointed me was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did they deal away their first pick in this season's draft to acquire Marian Hossa, but GM Ray Shero confirmed that talks had broken off with the star winger, and Hossa will become a free agent on July 1. The entire goal this off-season was to re-sign the winger, and now the Penguins have nothing to show for the biggest trade of the 2008 deadline. Of course, he could still sign with the Penguins after July 1, but it seems highly unlikely at this point.

And not only did the Penguins lose the one guy they were targeting for a new contract this past weekend, but they didn't pick a player until the 120th pick. They only had four picks in the draft in total. If you're the Penguins, you know that Hossa and Malone are probably gone, so you probably want to find the best scoring players at that point in the draft as you can, right? Well, the Penguins started out by drafting centerman Nathan Moon from the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. He appears to be a solid player, so that's not a bad pick.

However, with their next two picks, the Penguins drafted goaltenders. Why? If Fleury is your franchise guy, why not draft one goalie, and then go after some scoring? The Penguins drafted Russian goaltender Alexander Pechurski with the 150th pick, three picks ahead of where Justin Azevedo, the CHL's Player of the Year, was drafted. What were they thinking at the table?

A truly bizarre draft day for the Penguins, if you ask me.

I did want to say congratulations to all the players who were selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. From the #1 overall pick, Steven Stamkos, to the final and 211th player selected this year in Jesper Samuelsson, congratulations to all these kids! I look forward to seeing you all in the AHL and, hopefully, the NHL one day!

To the parents of all the young men selected, thank you for raising such wonderful young men. The communities that each of these men are going to will benefit as much as each individual franchise will.

And to the fans of the NHL, get ready for the next generation of young superstars! Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, and Schenn were the first five selected, but they won't be the only stars, I can assure you.

Free agency starts in just over a week's time, so stay tuned as I'll be blogging all day on July 1. Also, there will be more charitable organizations featured here, so check back to see how NHL players are working within NHL communities as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


mer said...

jared staal went 49th, not 46th.

Teebz said...

Thanks for the correction, Mer!